ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan angrily condemned Wednesday a U.S. ground attack on its soil that targeted a suspected Taliban haven and left up to 20 people dead in a village near the Afghan border.
The attack in South Waziristan killed at least seven women and children as they prepared to eat breakfast before dawn Wednesday, the second day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The raid occurred about a mile inside Pakistan, a senior U.S. military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press. The Washington-based official didn't provide details on casualties.
Such a cross-border ground raid into Pakistan's tribal areas by Western troops in Afghanistan is highly unusual. U.S. forces based in Afghanistan have periodically conducted air and artillery strikes against insurgents across the border in Pakistani territory, and new hot-pursuit rules provide some room for American troops to maneuver during battle. But the arrival of U.S. helicopters in the village of Musa Nika, deep in undisputed Pakistani territory, would constitute a new tactic.
The boldness of the thrust fed speculation about the intended target. But it was unclear whether any extremist leader was killed or captured in the operation, which occurred in one of the militant strongholds in a frontier region considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The raid, described by Pakistani officials as having been carried out by helicopter-borne commandos, is likely to inflame tensions at a time when Islamic militants are threatening to attack Pakistani officials and installations in retaliation for recent strikes against them by Pakistani government forces.
Insurgents were blamed for firing shots Wednesday at the motorcade of Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani, though he was not in the procession at the time and no one was hurt.
The United States and other Western governments have been demanding that Pakistan do more to rein in militants operating on its side of the border, and Pakistan's willingness and ability to go after al-Qaida and the Taliban have become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.
Pakistan filed a formal protest with the U.S. government.
The strike comes three days before Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the Pakistan People's Party, seeks the presidency in a vote by Pakistani lawmakers.